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Chinese hackers hit New York Times over political articles

31 Jan 2013
China flag

The New York Times has revealed it was the target of a prolonged hacking attack emanating from China, in apparent payback for a series of articles about nation's prime minister Wen Jiabao.

The attacks took place during the same period that the paper was running a series of exposes into the family of the leader.

Those targeted including employees in the paper's Chinese bureau, based in Shanghai, and their South Asia office in India.

So far, though, the paper does not believe any sensitive information was taken and believes it has managed to boot the hackers from its networks.

"Computer security experts found no evidence that sensitive emails or files from the reporting of our articles about the Wen family were accessed, downloaded or copied," said Jill Abramson, executive editor of the NYT.

Security firm Mandiant was brought into help with the attacks, and they said the methods used were similar to other attacks with links to the Chinese military.

However, China strongly denied this, in a statement sent to the paper.

"Chinese laws prohibit any action including hacking that damages internet security," said China's Ministry of National Defence.

"To accuse the Chinese military of launching cyber attacks without solid proof is unprofessional and baseless."

While the NYT now believes it has removed all the hackers and implemented stronger security protocols to stop attacks, Mandiant's chief security officer warned a repeat incident could well take place.

"Once they take a liking to a victim, they tend to come back. It's not like a digital crime case where the intruders steal stuff and then they're gone. This requires an internal vigilance model," he said.

The attack underlines the growing unease between China and the US with attacks on networks appearing to escalate all the time, with tech vendors such as Google also believed to have been targeted by Chinese hackers.

However, defence chiefs from both China and the US have moved to diffuse any tension in public, claiming they share common goals and are working together against cyber threats from criminals and rogue states.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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